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The Role of Intelligence in Sustainment Operations

In 2008, Faiza Elmasry noted on Voice of America that for more than 40 years after World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union had the capability to destroy each other. That capability brought with it the threat of a nuclear holocaust, which both nations made their top priority to avoid. Today, avoidance of nuclear devastation continues to be a paramount concern. The number of countries with the capacity to use nuclear weapons has grown, making the security of the world even more complex. Instead of facing a superpower standoff, threats to international security have become linked not only to countries with nuclear capabilities but also to such nonstate players as insurgents and terrorists.

To defeat the increasingly significant terrorist threat to international security, the U.S. military can neither rely on conventional military strategies nor expect the use of nuclear power to put an end to elusive and dispersed terrorist and insurgent forces. To deal with the low-level, highly destabilizing threat of small, covert insurgent or terrorist forces, the U.S. military must develop current, comprehensive antiterrorism and counterinsurgency strategies, including intelligence strategies.

Providing Intelligence Support to Sustainers

The 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) was one of the first Reserve component ESCs to deploy in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Based for a year at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, the 311th ESC provided theater-level logistics support to the warfighters in Iraq and limited logistics support to forces in Afghanistan. The role of the 311th ESC intelligence (G–2) section was to provide timely and accurate intelligence to the ESC’s commanding general and staff in order to assist them in making informed operational decisions. For sustainment operations, the role of intelligence was focused on protecting the convoys that carried critical supplies and equipment to the warfighter daily.

To meet the mission requirement to work at the regional level, the eight-member G–2 section was divided into two parts: a production cell that served on the consolidated intelligence team of Army Central Command (ARCENT) Forward and a cell that supported command intelligence operations. The 311th ESC’s production cell worked closely with intelligence analysts from ARCENT, the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, the 4th Sustainment Brigade, the 420th Movement Control Battalion, and the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to produce intelligence products to meet the Army theater commander’s intelligence requirements and the intelligence needs of all subordinate and supported unit commanders. However, the 311th ESC G–2 section did not have enough analysts to conduct 24-hour operations.

A two-person intelligence operations cell provided G–2 support for the 311th ESC, but a full-time 311th ESC security manager addressed the command’s regional security requirements. The importance of the security manager cannot be overstated in theater-level operations. The daily administration and processing of clearances and security rosters was an enormous job that required at least one dedicated, detail-oriented security manager.

Once the G–2 section took over the regional intelligence mission, the battle rhythm required daily and weekly briefings to the commanding general, senior staff, and subordinate unit commanders; weekly meetings with other intelligence professionals in theater; the submission of the daily situation reports; and a weekly in-depth intelligence update to discuss trends and data analyses.

Paradigm Shift

None of the G–2 Soldiers had deployment experience in providing intelligence for counterinsurgency operations. Most of them had started their military careers before 1989 during the Cold War era.

Over the past 8 years, one military intelligence challenge has been to change the Army’s perception of the enemy as a Soviet-type military with large conventional forces and heavy nuclear capabilities to the current operational picture of a relatively small insurgent force that has asymmetric, unconventional weapons and capabilities more aligned with guerilla warfare.

Within the U.S. military, the intelligence community also has had to adapt its methods and strategies to better assist U.S. forces in achieving military goals against an insurgent enemy. It has done this by focusing on insurgent operations and activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Intelligence personnel also have had to expand their scope beyond gathering and analyzing data on the conventional tactics and strategies of “third generation” military engagements. [See the sidebar below for a discussion of the four generations of warfare.]

Combating Propaganda

The evolved insurgency in Iraq used an information campaign on all available networks to try to persuade U.S. political decisionmakers that the U.S. Government’s strategic goals in Iraq were unachievable. In order to defeat the Iraqi insurgency’s “information war,” military intelligence analysts should be enlisted to help combat insurgency propaganda. Interpreted information is more revealing when the subjects being studied are well understood. Thus, intelligence analysts need to understand the culture, religion, customs, politics, and history of the Iraqi people. Only then can military intelligence personnel play a greater role in the effort to “win the hearts and minds” and gain the support of the Iraqi people.

Assessing the current threats in the operational environment is of paramount importance from an intelligence standpoint. Basic intelligence techniques are still effective in monitoring enemy insurgents, but with an evolved enemy, intelligence experts need to devise a more effective means of forecasting and assessing enemy activities.

In recent books on military intelligence in counterinsurgencies, authors suggest that military intelligence agents should use law enforcement techniques, such as pattern analysis and geographic profiling, to investigate past criminal behavior and predict future incidents and locations of criminal acts. Because many insurgent activities are similar to the acts of criminal gangs, military intelligence analytical techniques in a counterinsurgency should also include tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) more closely aligned with those used in police work. Thus, the 311th ESC G–2 incorporated law enforcement techniques into the process of tracking insurgent attacks against daily supply convoys by using pattern analysis and geographic profiling to look for trends in attacks or incidents on the main supply routes.

Preparing for the Mission

The 311th ESC G–2 section prepared for the theater-level intelligence mission by increasing training on new intelligence systems, including new intelligence software programs, at the Western Army Reserve Intelligence Support Center at Camp Parks, California. The G–2 section of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, which had oversight of the U.S. Central Command theater logistics operations, shared daily intelligence products, which helped familiarize the 311th ESC G–2 staff with identified insurgent groups, TTP, cultural events, and background information that gave shape to the overall regional intelligence picture.

Knowledge of an enemy’s culture, religion, customs, politics, and history is extremely important. Before deploying, the G–2 staff studied historical, cultural, and religious characteristics of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan—a process that continued throughout the subsequent year-long deployment. The goal was to “understand the cultural, social, political, religious, and moral beliefs and attitudes of allied, host nation (HN), or indigenous forces to assist in accomplishing goals and objectives,” as prescribed in Field Manual 2–0, Intelligence. Knowledge of the culture and background of the indigenous people also provided insight into the basic values and motivations that were likely to affect insurgent activity and behavior.

After arriving in theater, 311th ESC G–2 staff took classes on Arabic culture at the Camp Arifjan education center to gain more background knowledge of the Arab people. The G–2 staff also attended lectures from the Advocates for Western-Arab Relations (AWARE) Center in downtown Kuwait City. [The AWARE Center is a nonprofit, nongovernment, and nonpolitical organization whose goal is to create a positive relationship between Arabs and westerners through Arab culture education.] These lectures provided a local perspective on how Arab Muslims viewed westerners and how Islamic principles pervade the daily life and thought processes of Arabs. These learning opportunities enhanced the G–2 staff’s ability to understand the Iraqi people and the insurgent enemy.

Analyzing Insurgent Attack Data

To help defeat insurgents, military intelligence professionals have to do more than gather intelligence on the enemy; they also have to be aware of the adaptive, asymmetric warfare strategies of insurgents and their capabilities for using a wide array of low-to-high technology means to achieve their goals.

Through a regional database developed by the G–2 section, intelligence analysts tracked attacks that occurred on main and alternate supply routes, including those that were not against supply convoys. The Combined Information Data Network Exchange is the system used to track all insurgent attacks occurring in Iraq. However, because this system also includes other attacks, the G–2 section found that it was not an effective method of determining intelligence trends regarding attacks occurring on supply routes. Analyzing attacks that are directed against convoys is significantly different from analyzing all attacks on or near roads, especially in highly populated urban areas such as Baghdad, Iraq.

One of the G–2 section’s intelligence analysts developed a computer database that displayed only attacks along supply convoy routes. This enabled intelligence analysts to focus on loading supply convoy data into the program, including the location, time, and type of each attack and what convoy was attacked. Using this program, a query could be performed to determine the frequency and density of attacks on main and alternate supply routes. Detailed information on convoy attacks was also included in the database, which was extremely useful in understanding historical patterns and analyzing data. The G–2 staff also used the information to predict future insurgent behavior and attacks based on trends observed within the past year. By combining these data with known data on insurgent groups operating in the areas of the attack, intelligence analysts were able to determine the likely insurgent group conducting the attacks.

Sharing historical intelligence data with units scheduled for future rotations in theater is extremely important. Military intelligence analysts rely on the ability to review and evaluate large quantities of information, such as the data stored in databases, to do their jobs effectively. The G–2 section’s database on insurgent activity is a key source for managing and assessing critical data on enemy activity trends and must be updated regularly to keep information in the system current.

The 311th ESC found that the deployed operational environment presented an opportunity for real-world training of intelligence analysts. The 311th ESC G–2 Soldiers cross-trained by performing different intelligence duties during the deployment. This created a more complete operational picture and broader scope of intelligence interpretation through the fresh perspectives that each Soldier provided when taking on the duties of other intelligence section jobs.

The 311th ESC completed a year-long deployment overseeing regional logistics support to U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq without the loss of a single member of one of its convoys to enemy forces. Intelligence provided to commanders and decisions based on this information played a significant role in this accomplishment.

The combined efforts of intelligence analysts at each level collaborating on data collection, sharing information, and interacting and interfacing with systems and each other ultimately helped protect the supply convoys and the lives of hundreds of Soldiers involved in daily transport operations. By diligently monitoring insurgent activities along convoy routes, the G–2 section proved to be a significant enabler to successful sustainment operations in Iraq.

Lieutenant Colonel Heber S. Meeks, USAR, is the commander of the 1st Battalion, 415th Regiment, 95th Division (Institutional Training), at Phoenix, Arizona. He was the G–2 of the 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) when he wrote this article. He holds a B. A. degree in mass communications from the University of Utah and a Juris Doctor degree in law from the California Western School of Law. He is a graduate of the Military Intelligence Officer Advanced Course, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Multifunctional Logistics Course.

Major Barton T. Brundige, USAR, is the G–2 of the 311th ESC. He was the deputy G–2 of the 311th ESC when he wrote this article. He holds a B.S. degree in psychology from California Lutheran College. He is a graduate of the Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course and the Ordnance Officer Advanced Course.

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